Kid Birthday Ideas That'll Blow You (and your candles) Away!
November 8, 2003
Create Digital Photo Albums - In Minutes, Build Your Very Own Family Web Site, And Start Showing Off Your Web Albums. Here's How...
Three years ago I was thinking to myself…
I love to take lots of pictures. Lots and lots! And since the inception of the digital camera, I just point and shoot, and shoot, and shoot and then download everything onto the computer. And then continue shooting more…
But when it comes to organizing the thousands of pictures I've accumulated, Ugrh!
It's a daunting task and I just never get around to it. After the primary excitement, the pictures usually get placed back into the 1-hour quick photo envelopes and shoved into a drawer, while the digital ones stay hidden forever in an archived folder on my computer.
I spent a few hundred bucks on a digital camera, and I don't even want to think about how much money has gone into buying film and developing pictures. So, I've decided that it's time to reap the fruits of my investments and create Web albums that I (or for that matter any one of my family members) can show off from virtually anywhere, at any time.
The vision: Our own family Web site where we can showcase all of our pictures.
Today, three years later, our family Web site (which started out as a simple Web album) has turned into a “brag site” where we showcase much more than photos. You're invited. If I'm at a friends house and want to show off my new pictures, no problem. Most everyone is online these days. Even my Mom, who lives on the other side of the globe, brags to all her friends with the online pictures.
And in the years to come, as we have more and more kids (!!!), they'll have their own section on the site to express themselves.
Building your own family site is much easier than you may think.
OK, coming from someone like myself who knows a bit more than the average person about building Web sites, the easy bit doesn't sound too believable. But my wife Naama, who has yet to find a common language with our computer (aside from browsing around the GAP Kids online store…), agreed to help me show how easy it is to build a Web album and a family brag site.
I've made an effort to make the article below as simple as possible. At times it may seem too simple. Naama read through it, even created two Web albums on her own and then posted them online! And finally gave it her “perfect-for-the-computerly-challenged” seal of approval ;-)
Create the Coolest Web Albums – In Minutes
For starters, let's assume that all you want to do is create a Web photo album and put it on the Internet. Of course, you can share other stuff besides pictures on the Internet, but once you understand how to create and upload a Web album, it's smooth sailing with everything else.
First thing you'll need are… pictures.
If you've got a digital camera and you know how to connect it to your computer and transfer pictures onto your computer, then you're ready to start. If you have a 35mm camera, then you'll need to convert the pictures into digital pictures. This can either be done by scanning the pictures onto your computer (if you've got a scanner), or you can also ask that the pictures be developed both on regular photo paper and as digital images onto a CD. (Most film developing shops provide this service nowadays.)
Once the pictures are in a designated folder on your computer, we're ready to roll…
I set up a folder on our computer for Naama with 15 pictures from our daughter's latest birthday at the day care.
I then spent a few days researching and testing different Web Album programs. The two guiding criteria were that they had to cost less than $30 US and have a free fully-functional trial version. I downloaded about ten different programs.
I asked Naama to open each of the programs and spend no more than five minutes experimenting with every one. Some of the programs were ridiculously difficult, but others were just the opposite. Naama chose Magic Gallery and Picasa as the easiest to use. You can see the albums she created and her opinion of each program on our family Web site.
Take a look, download the free trial versions and experiment for yourself, then come back to find out how to place your Web albums online.
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Build Your Very Own Family Web Site
Several years ago, in order to create a Web site, you had to be a computer programmer. Today, it's a whole different ball game. Any one who knows how to browse the Internet can build a Web site in minutes.
Before you create your very own family Web site, like ours – www.shippony.com, there are two terms you should be familiar with:
A domain name is simply the unique name that identifies an Internet site. Most often, domain names are separated into three parts. For instance, www.shippony.com. “www” stands for world wide web (that's another name for the Internet). Shippony is the actual name of the site (and our family name). And .com is the extension. There are other extensions such as .net or .org, but .com is by far the most popular and there's no difference between them all.
When you want to go to a site, you use a browser like Internet Explorer, type the domain name in the Address bar, and the site opens.
You can buy whichever domain name you want as long as it's available. Many domain names have already been taken. For instance, if your family name is Clayborn, you won't be able to buy www.clayborn.com because someone already owns it. You may use, for example, www.clayborn-family.com. (Those of us with unusual family names are lucky!)
Domain names are purchased from a certified online domain name registrar. This costs between $15-$25 a year. You can order your domain for a year, five years, ten years or however long you'd like. But once it expires, someone else can buy it.
So, before you can build your own site, you'll need to purchase a domain name.
And you'll also need a host for your domain. Let me explain exactly what a host is…
The pictures you want to share are on your hard drive. No one browsing through the Internet can see what's on your computer's hard drive (thank God!). So you need to transfer your files onto another computer that can be viewed by all the people browsing through the Net. This is called a host computer. The host computer “hosts” your site and knows to associate it with your domain name.
The geographical location of your host doesn't really matter. For all you care, it can be in Timbuktu – as long as it's open to the Internet.
There are so many companies offering hosting services nowadays, that trying to figure out which hosting service is best for our Web album needs seemed like an impossible task. But, there always seems to be a service that shines above the rest and luckily I found it.
www.namezero.com is by far the best and most affordable hosting service for people like us who don't want to deal with any technical gibberish.
First, you can BOTH register a domain name AND get an excellent deal on hosting services from NameZero. This means that everything gets done in one place and you pay only one vendor for both domain name registration and hosting. It makes life much easier.
Second, unlike many of the other hosting services, NameZero provides a super easy-to-use tool that lets you build your site without any need of programming or graphic design knowledge. In just a few clicks, your site is up. (You even get a built-in tool that helps you create basic Web albums!)
But you can also do it for free…
Yep, free – If you're willing to forego having your very own private domain name.
Big sites like Yahoo Geocities (geocities.com) and Lycos Anglefire (anglefire.com) let you put your pictures and other files on their big hosting computers for free. They also provide easy-to-use site-building tools just like NameZero, but limit the amount of pictures you can post. (If you want to put more pictures, you have to pay…) They also put ads on your site.
But, if you're not set on having your own personal domain name and if you don't mind the pop up ads, then the free service is a viable option.
Personally, I think a private site is the way to go. One day, everyone will have their own site. It's like… telephones or email addresses. It's an awesome way to relay communication – especially to your family and friends, or to keep your portfolio, CV, etc.
Who knows if the big sites won't suddenly decide that their free hosting isn't free anymore and you'll end up either being stuck with them or forced to find another place to post your site. And then you'll have to inform all your friends where the new location of the site is. What a hassle!
Besides, there's something special about having your very own Web site. And these days, when it's so easy and cheap, why not go for it?! You can even create your very own email address, like firstname.lastname@example.org.
I hope this article has helped you and I'd love to see some of your Web sites and albums.
Feel free to drop me a line if you have any questions and I'll do my very best to answer them. I'll also continue to experiment with new programs as they are released and keep you informed.
All the best (and coolest),
Elad the Birthday Dad
P.S. As a token of my great appreciation to Naama, my wife, who read through this article and took the time to experiment with the programs, I dug up some of her childhood photos and put together this album as a gift. (And now I'm suddenly thinking to myself out loud: “Hey… what an idea! Web albums can also be an awesome gift. Something unique that YOU create for someone you love! It doesn't cost you a dime, but it's worth much more than lots of that other stuff we call gifts...”) She loves it!